On the dawning of a new year it is customary for us to examine our lives in light of our goals. We consider the usual subjects: health, finances, recreation, and relationships. Sometimes people flippantly make resolutions or changes because they like the idea of change but are convinced enough about them to put in the effort to realize the dream. If we are thoughtful and serious about this, we think about what we want to become and then we attempt to reverse engineer the process. We change eating and exercise habits for health. We change spending and savings habits for finances. We change our time and priorities for relationships.
Using this as a popular and I think helpful model, let’s think about our spiritual lives. What is the goal for the Christian? What or who are we to look like? Who or what are we aiming to become? All of the children’s Sunday School members were ready to answer this question. It is Jesus! Our goal is to be like Christ. The point of the Christian life, this period of time from conversion to when we go into the presence of God forever, the goal of this time is to become more and more Christ-like. It is to be transformed into his image or likeness.
Romans 8:29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
How does this happen? How does God do this? How do we do it?
What happens here is, especially at the dawning of the new year, we get our lists out. “We need to do this and not do that” we say. This will do it. However, if trends hold true, we are in the third week of the new year and many of our spiritual new year’s resolutions look similar to or even worse than our physical. We lose steam. We lack joy. We plateau. We backslide. We get discouraged. We feel ashamed.
Why? Many times we fall into the trap of thinking that we will become more Christlike simply by imitating him. However, the Bible does not present transformation by means of simply imitating the life of Christ but by beholding the glory of Christ. It is through the intentional consideration of and meditation upon the glory of Christ that we are transformed into the image of Christ.
Look with me at 2 Corinthians 3:18 “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”
The Holy Spirit sets the glory of Christ before the eyes of our souls so that we see his supremacy, beauty, and infinite worth! It is this that brings about the transformation into Christ-likeness. In other words, you become what you behold. If this is Christ, then God transforms you into his likeness.
I believe that it is the oversight of this biblical priority that gives explains the apathy in prayer, lethargy in service, joylessness in trial, and timidity in evangelism. Further, the lack of beholding the glory of Christ is the oversight that ushers in all types of worldliness and compromise into the church.
We learn from the Scriptures that it is this first sight of the glory of Christ that is to be our ongoing pursuit throughout all of our Christian lives. Further, it is the glory of Christ which Satan attempts to keep hid from all our view that we might join the unbelieving world groping about in the darkness like bats, unable to see the true shape and form of that which is in the light.
[Read 2 Cor. 4:1-6]
The big idea for this morning is that it is the privilege and responsibility for all Christians to behold the glory of Christ. We want to look into this a bit more deeply and make some particular application. It is fitting for us to do so because the Book of Hebrews so often calls its readers to consider the glory of Christ. It is important for us to understand what he is up to so that we would truly find ourselves impacted by this study.
Our text this morning from Hebrews is more of an launching point into this broader discussion. But, let me assure you that this topic of the glory of Christ, is all over the Bible. We are not injecting our view upon this passage but it is in every passage. In so far as the whole Bible points to Jesus (as Jesus taught us in Luke 24.27, 44-47).
Hebrews 3:1 Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession,
There is the phrase: “consider Jesus.” This morning we want to ask some questions about this and provide some straightforward answers. First, what does it mean to consider Jesus? Second, why must we do this? Third, What Prevents us from this Priority? and Fourth, How do we do this?
(1) What Does it Mean to “Consider Jesus?”
The passage again is Hebrews 3:1, “Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession” Let me draw your particular attention to the phrase we are focusing on, “consider Jesus.”
The word translated consider means to give careful attention and consideration to some matter. The root word literally means to direct your whole mind to an object. In the gospel narratives when Jesus was teaching about how to discern God’s Fatherly love and care for you he tells his disciples to “consider the lilies” (Lk. 12.27) and “consider the ravens” (Lk. 12.27). James uses it in chapter 1 when he reminds his readers of the importance of being a hearer and a doer of the Word. “For if anyone is hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in the mirror and goes away and forgets what he was like.” (James 1:23) You can see how this term is nuanced a bit. No doubt you see something of the intentional, careful attention and consideration to the topic.
If we might press it a bit further, the verb or the command here to consider lets us know that this is to be an ongoing, continual action. If you are a Christian this is to be the ongoing study of your life. You are to never graduate from the University of Christ. You are always attending. Always studying. Always learning. Always marveling.
We are people who know what it means to give careful attention to things and people, we do it all the time. We spend the first 20 (or more) years of our lives being training in education. When we go to work we have to learn the specifics of our job and in many cases require continuing education in order to simply maintain. Some ladies are amazing with crafts, design, cooking, and decorating; this is a trade that requires careful attention. Musicians practice and continue to learn. Athletes learn more and more about training and nutrition. Many of our military men have to leave for a time to go to a particular training institution required by their position. Of course their are the leisure items of games, movies, sports, and books. We know how to give things careful attention. And this of course is not bad, please don’t misread me. However, don’t lose what it best here. The reminder is to continue to carefully, intentionally, direct your whole mind to Jesus. May he, particularly the glory of his person and work capture your contemplation, meditation and study.
(2) Why Must We “Consider Jesus?”
Why must we consider Jesus? Simply put, the Bible tells you to. But, perhaps, a compliment to this, you are able to. That is, it is a responsibility and a privilege. Until you see this as a privilege you won’t value the responsibility.
(A) It is commanded.
This is what we have seen already. The Bible, in passages like Hebrews 3 and 12, tells us as believers to give a careful, intentional, mindful effort to behold the glory of Christ. This is what we are called to do as Christians.
(B) Jesus Prays for it
We know there is something powerful and attention grabbing about the time before a loved one dies. If given the opportunity to talk and if we are given the opportunity to hear, we cherish those moments. To hear their unvarnished wishes and thoughts concerning you and your future are priceless. It will stick with you forever. We are given some special access to the prayer of Jesus hours before his torture and crucifixion. He knows what is before him. He is praying to his Father and for his disciples. In this prayer in John 17 he prays for them specifically and then all who would believe through their testimony. At one point he includes this request:
John 17:24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.
With the cross in view Jesus prays that his followers can see his glory. This is what he wants.
The question then is why?
There are two ways the Bible talks about how we behold God. The first is faith and the second is sight. Right now, if we are a Christian, we walk by faith. We do not see God. We behold him by faith. Faith is neither blind nor irrational. Faith is the settled disposition of the soul whereby the mind, hear, and will rest upon that object which is believed to be true, valuable, and able. Faith is not walking across a rickety bridge. Faith is more like walking over the Golden Gate Bridge amid a dense fog. Any limitation with faith has to do with our perception, not the object of faith. Even Paul says we now see through a glass dimly but then face to face (1 Cor. 13:12).
The time period of now, as we live and wait for heaven, is faith. Then it will be sight.
(C) Your Soul Depends on it.
What then has God given you faith for? What is the purpose of it? Over and over again in the Bible we read that faith is the means by which God strengthens, consoles, grows, encourages, perseveres, and heals you as a Christian. And, who is that faith in? What is its object? The object of your faith is Christ. Faith is the gift of God whereby your soul reaches out and embraces its object. This object is Christ.
Even in the Book of Hebrews where we have observed dozens of times already, the issue is trying to keep people on track and preventing them from walking away from Christ, what is the writer’s secret? What is his tactic to keep them on track? It is to show them the glory of Jesus Christ.
[Read Hebrews 12:1-3]
Furthermore it is this beholding, this seeing of the glory of Jesus Christ that changes you. Look again at 2 Cor. 3:18, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”
How do we become like Christ? (Remember this is the goal) How do we get there?
The Bible does not present the path to Christ likeness as a path of imitating the life of Christ but beholding the glory of Christ! There is more to the Christian life but there is not less than this. If we are not beholding the glory of Christ, that is seeing and savoring his supremacy, beauty, greatness and surpassing worth, then we are not growing. We may be learning a lot of truth but it is not generating a heart that beats after, loves, values, and cherishes Jesus.
All of sanctification depends on this. This is what the Holy Spirit does. He fastens our faith upon the glory of Christ and changes us to make us more Christ like by beholding this glory.
Look at Colossians 3. Paul wants the church to be a certain way (loving, Christ honoring cf. verses 5- chapter 4:2). How does he reverse engineer that thing? Read verses 1-4.
(D) Eternity Consist of it.
This is what eternity is all about. When faith shall give way to sight what will we see? Whenever you get a portal into heaven you see one thing: worship before the Lamb. In Revelation 5 all of the angels are on their faces. All creation is worshiping by declaring the unrivaled splendor of the King.
“Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.” (Revelation 5:11–14)
The gift of faith and sight to behold the glory of Christ is a tremendous privilege but it is also a responsibility. Listen, if beholding the glory of Christ is the basis for our salvation, consolation, spiritual growth and joy —and is the sole preparation for the blessedness of eternity, then we must give ourselves to the continual contemplation of the glory of Christ.
(3) What Prevents us from the priority to “Consider Jesus?”
One of my favorite writers from the 17th Century said that instead of pursuing the light of the glory of Christ, we become like bats and owls, preferring to live in the darkness of night rather than amid the brightness and splendor of Christ.
I don’t pretend to be anyone special and wise. I’m a simple guy with minimal education and experience. But I can tell you this: far too many Christians live indifferently to the glory of Christ. I have seen it over and over again. So many professing Christians are unmoved by Christ’s beauty. We seem to talk of everything but him. We are professionals at talking about the trivial while ignoring the substance. We are chasing the tails of fireflies while ignoring the radiance of the sun. Even among those who study theology. We can talk all about people, doctrine, and history, but say very little about Christ himself.
This problem is not a new problem however. In the early 1500’s there was a Roman Catholic Monk named Martin Luther. He was going through a period of spiritual discovery. His big issues were how to understand the character of God and how this character related to him as a sinner (this is an age old question). At the same time one of the bishops in a neighboring region was looking to raise some money so he hired a man named Tetzel to go about raising money. The practice was called indulgences. The peasants in the town may give money to Tetzel and in exchange God would reduce their stay in Purgatory by some time. You can imagine the appeal to a loved one who had the opportunity to reduce their relative’s stay by 10,000 years! Well, this directly related to Luther’s dilemma. How could God be like this? Over time the frustration continued and Luther publicly criticized the Roman Catholic Church for their practice of indulgences. The central issue for Luther was that they thought God was just like them. How else could you justify dropping what amounts to a bribe on God? People take bribes not God.
This is always the central issue. We think God is like us. As has been said before, “God made us in his image and we have been returning the favor ever since.” We craft a god in our image. He looks like us, acts like us, feels like us, thinks like us, and of course he heartily approves of us.
This is appropriate for our question of, “what prevents us from considering Jesus?” The issue is, we are too often not that impressed by him. We become too familiar with him. He is like us, a bit morally superior but at the end of the day you and I will not fill our minds, direct our hearts, and intentionally focus our minds upon the glory of Christ if we do not find him very glorious.
This is what brakes my heart as a pastor. So many times people are consumed by things that will perish. Ten seconds after you die what use is your stuff, your hobbies, your recreation, your social media, your entertainment, your whatever? It is gone. But, friends, what of the glory of Christ? It is eternally resplendent, soul-satisfying, and joy-producing.
I’ve seen many success stories though, myself included. I have seen many who like flowers planted in the shade, are not flourishing. They are neither bright nor healthy. They are just existing spiritually. However, when you uproot the flower and move it over to the sunny side of the house where it may drink in the sun then it responds. It grows and begins to blossom. When the person is exposed to the glory of Christ in preaching, study, and intentionality, they, like the flower, change. They blossom.
(4) How do we “Consider Jesus?”
How do we consider Jesus? What is the means by which God has given? It’s a simple and short answer: The Bible.
It is the Word of God that God has given to showcase and display the glory of Christ. Yes you can observe and even marvel at God in the creation, but this is a distant second to the Bible. In the Bible we are given the record and description and detail of God’s activity among people. It is the Bible that discloses the glory of Christ for us that our faith may latch upon it.
Like a wise collector who scours Craig’s List, Ebay or the Antique Shops looking for that sought after jewel, the Christian scours the Bible looking for the glorious jewel that is our Lord Jesus Christ.
We read the Bible in light of Moses’ prayer, “Lord, show me your glory” (Ex. 33:18) knowing that it is Jesus who prayed that we would see his glory (Jn. 17:24) and that it is the Holy Spirit who brings us to see this glory through the Scriptures (2 Cor. 3:18).
How does the Bible display the glory of Christ?
(A) By Prophecy
From the early pages of Genesis we begin to read the anticipation of one who would come to rescue and restore God’s people. (Gen. 3:15ff; 12, 49; Deu. 18:15; 2 Sam. 7; Isa 7, 9, 53; Jer. 23; Mic. 5:2; etc).
Owen on covenantal head…
(B) By Type or Shadow
What is the reason for the giving of the Old Testament? Yes, to record the history of Israel. Yes, to provide us with the framework of understanding who God is. Yes, with the building of a covenant community. All of this is true. We also know that according to Jesus, the entire Old Testament anticipated him.
“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me,” (John 5:39)
“And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” (Luke 24:27)
“Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”” (Luke 24:44)
We read Leviticus and see the offerings (Burnt, Tribute, Sin, Guilt and Peace —chapters 1-5). We see the priests in chapters 6-10 and know that we need a better priest. We read of the offering on the Day of Atonement and know that we need a lasting and true atonement. We read of the centrality of blood in the worship of God in chapter 17 and know that God will be worshiped ultimately through the blood of Christ. We read of the blessings and the curses in chapters 26-27 and know that Christ has become our curse. You see all of the anticipatory shadows and types of Christ? These testify to his glory.
(C) By Direct Declaration and Demonstration of his activity.
Consider his entire mission of redemption. Knowing that Adam would ruin himself and his children, Christ willingly said yes to his Father. He would come and rescue us. Then he comes as a baby, the one who deserves all submission gives submission to an imperfect man and woman. He himself grows in obedience (Lk. 2:52). Then you see him who is the law giver bend his head for baptism by John the Baptist. Even after John contests he says to permit it at this time for it is right.
You see him as the great restorer of the broken going to those who are hurting, weak and outcast. He touches the untouchable and Lepers are made whole. He gives sight to the blind, he creates limbs, he feeds the hungry, he raises the dead, he walks on water, he calms the storm, he welcome children unto his lap, all of this to put his glory on display. All of this is suitable for you dear Christians to fix your gaze upon and marvel at.
You hear his words that he must do things. He is driven. His face is set like a flint toward Calvary.
“saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”” (Luke 9:22)
And so he would. The true King who has been installed on Mt. Zion will be mocked as a King. He is given a robe and beaten with a makeshift scepter. The true prophet is told by a mob to prophesy. The true priest is rejected by the chief priests. His glory is seen in these things.
Then he goes to the cross and is hanging before two criminals. What is he doing there but proclaiming the gospel, praying for forgiveness and then granting eternal life. See him there upon the cross, God loving the unlovely, serving the rebel, healing the sick and raising the dead.
Look again at the cross and see it shrouded in black darkness. This is not a phenomenon of the weather but a visible expression of judgment. God is not absent from the cross he is very much there. Christ the Son is fixed to the tree, voluntarily giving himself as the Lamb, slain for sinners. And the Father is there in judgment. Just as during the Exodus the sky turned black so too hear God visits in judgment.
And what do you have? You have perfect holiness, righteousness, love, mercy, power, grace, and faithfulness converge in a most glorious display of the divine perfection. There is God in Christ reconciling the world to himself.
We could go on to consider the enthronement, return and kingdom of Christ.
If you want to behold the glory of Christ by faith then you must give yourself to the constant reading of the Bible. This is what God uses to sanctify his children to conform his children into the image of Christ.
If you don’t find yourself moved by the glory of Christ you may not know him. This is an occasion to examine your own heart before the Lord. The Holy Spirit gives eyes to see and savor Christ as supreme.
Let this glory of Christ be before you constantly. Let our thoughts of Christ be many, and multiplied throughout the day. Demand it of yourself and others. May Emmaus Bible Church not be about trying to be hip, cool, popular, or otherwise attractive. Let’s be known for being a people who are fascinated and compelled by the glory of Christ!